Louisiana Senate approves double fines, camera use on Atchafalaya Basin Bridge

May 4, 2022

Keith Goble

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A bill halfway through the Louisiana statehouse addresses concern about travel along the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge.

Currently, motorists are allowed to travel up to 60 mph along the Interstate 10 span in south Louisiana. Truck drivers are allowed to travel up to 55 mph along the span connecting Lafayette and Baton Rouge. Additionally, trucks are limited to using the left lane only for passing.

State law now authorizes fines of up to $175 for speeding and lane use violations. Repeat offenders face up to $500 fines.

Highway safety corridor

Senate lawmakers voted unanimously to advance to the House a bill that would designate the 18-mile span as a highway safety corridor.

Distinction as a highway safety corridor would authorize double fines for speeding. Offenders would first be issued warnings before they are issued a $350 citation for a third offense. Subsequent offenses would result in $1,000 fines.

Fine revenue above the cost of operation would be split between the parishes of Iberville and St. Martin. The bridge is located in the two parishes.

Sponsored by Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, SB435 includes a provision to authorize the use of enforcement cameras to track vehicle travel times.

Cortez said change is needed to address safety concerns along the span. He has told lawmakers that two years ago there were 203 accidents along the span. During that time, there were 55 injuries and two fatalities.

In 2021, there were 269 accidents with 89 injuries and two fatalities on the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge.

“Anybody who travels across the Atchafalaya Basin knows it has become really, really a major safety hazard. This bill sets up parameters to make sure there are cameras in place,” Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, told senators prior to the floor vote.

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development also would be responsible for placing additional signs along the roadway to alert travelers of the speed limits and truck lane restriction.

There would be eight sets of speed limit signs placed on the eastbound portion of the bridge. Eight sets of signs also would be placed on the westbound side.

Additionally, six sets of “trucks right lane only” signs would be equally spaced on the eastbound portion of the bridge. The same number of signs would be posted along the westbound stretch.

Automated enforcement

Cameras would be used to monitor for speeding on the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge.

Cortez said the transportation department would be required to post cameras along the span to time how long it takes a vehicle to travel to certain points along the bridge.

Cameras would be posted at both of the bridge entrances, at the two exits along the corridor, and at the end of the bridge each direction.

Vehicles that reach the points along the bridge at travel rates faster than would be expected for the vehicle and posted speed would be subject to a violation notice.

Cortez said during committee consideration of the bill that something needs to be done to help law enforcement counter the use of mobile apps that alert drivers to where law enforcement vehicles are located.

“Trucks know this too. They just do a leapfrog all the way down. They are all going 70 and 75 mph.”

Cortez adds that because of limited shoulder space on the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge, it is not safe to put state troopers on the bridge to enforce traffic rules.

He said the solution is to create behavior modification.

SB435 awaits consideration in the House Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee. LL

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Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.